After thrilling title finale, NASCAR withdrawal now setting in

1 Comment

We are all part of a giant circus, you and me. And when the circus shuts down, we don’t know exactly what to do.

Except perhaps not wanting to give ourselves the one thing we could probably use right now – a break.

I’m talking about NASCAR, of course, which is now officially in its hibernation phase. We’re in the middle of our first weekend without a NASCAR race since mid-July. And we won’t see another NASCAR race until Daytona Speedweeks in February.

There will be a few things in the off-season that will break up the monotony, the biggest of which being all the Champions Week stuff in Las Vegas. But eventually, we’re all gonna feel like we’re in that winter “dead zone.”

Perhaps some of you are already there. I’m noticing Twitter hashtags that highlight fans suffering from #NOD – that’s “NASCAR Offseason Disorder” – and today, #NoNASCARSunday.

The thing is, we all need to rest a little. We’re coming down from a long, 38-week schedule with 36 races. As exciting as it is and as much as we’ve paid attention to it, it’s still a grind.

And I’m just talking about the fans and media (like myself). What about the drivers and the teams that actually have to, you know, compete every weekend?

But hey, they’ve earned their vacation. As for the rest of us, our weekly routine has suddenly gone away, even if just for a relatively short period of time. And whenever a routine goes away – whether it involves NASCAR or something else – you’re left to ponder what to do with yourself.

You could keep tabs on some other disciplines of racing, perhaps.

Next month will see now-former Richard Petty Motorsports man Marcos Ambrose go back to V8 Supercars, but also the all-star Race of Champions in Barbados (which you can watch on NBCSN). Among the drivers competing in that special event is NASCAR’s own Kurt Busch. And you can see another NASCAR pilot, Sprint Cup rookie of the year Kyle Larson, tackle the Chili Bowl Nationals in January. Whether you prefer dirt or asphalt, the Chili Bowl is always a hoot.

Or maybe you can content yourself to just look ahead to 2015. There will be lots of questions to answer, among them…

  • Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing have captured the championship, but can they maintain their form and their pace?
  • Will Ryan Newman take a step back as many title runner-ups have done in recent years?
  • Can Toyota come out of the gate strong with their new Camry and give their drivers enough power to fight up front?
  • After a controversial Chase, will Brad Keselowski continue his aggressive ways or perhaps make an effort to curry more respect among his peers?
  • Has Jeff Gordon’s last best chance at a fifth title passed him by?
  • And can Dale Earnhardt Jr. continue his success with a new crew chief in Greg Ives?

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a while for the answers.

But if racing kept going year-round, it’d be a drain on everyone involved. We’ve got to take a breather.

Even if we don’t feel like doing so.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”